It’s Portrait Time: What to Wear??

Choosing what to wear for your portrait session can be a lot of fun, but the thought of how long you’ll be looking at these outfits in prints on your wall or mantle can also cause some stress. One thing to keep in mind is that you and your family–not your clothes–should be the focus of your pictures. Outfits that look gorgeous and well-coordinated will undoubtedly enhance your portraits, but should not be the very first thing you notice when looking at your pictures. So, how do you achieve that balance?

To keep the attention squarely on you and your family members, look for shirts in solid colors and small prints. You can coordinate within a single color scheme and throw in a small print to keep it interesting, like in the gorgeous shot on the left. The variations in shade and the small plaid on the little boy’s shirt help each individual stand out. On the right is a great example of how different colors can be combined as long as they blend in some way, like the soft pastels you see here.

Here’s another idea for a color-coordinated portrait look, courtesy of Polyvore. Everyone has colors that look best on them based on their unique skin tone and features, so let that be your guide on the right palette for outfits. One consideration: People’s faces look noticeably brighter in photographs when they wear a shirt that’s at least slightly darker than their complexion. If you’re light skinned that means white may not be the most flattering option, but any dark solid or small print could work well. Dark-skinned people often photograph beautifully in deep jewel tones or black, like in the image below.

Teal and Black

As with all great and beautiful things, there’s a flipside to the outfits above–and it offers a bit of insight on why some potentially amazing portrait sessions end in disappointment (and why sites like are never lacking for content!). In the interest of helping you achieve the pictures you’ve always envisioned, we’d like to share just a few considerations:

  • That large print is stunning…but is it so bold that it draws attention from you and your family? That’s a risk with big florals, plaids, as well as prominent logos, slogans or brand names. The beautiful kids on the left are overshadowed by the large floral print on the girls. And despite the joy depicted in the shot on the right, and well-coordinated clothing palette, the eye jumps right to the big print and bold stripes.
  • Putting everyone in matching outfits can help keep things simple, but can also have some unexpected, and undesired, results! The beautiful families pictured below were overtaken by a black blob, an aqua blob and a white blur, respectively. The bottom shot also illustrates how the eye naturally goes to the bright white shirts first rather than the people’s smiling faces.
  • On the topic of calling attention…it can be helpful for the ladies to be conscious of how revealing their tops are (as a little cleavage may look great, but a lot may distract from everything else in the picture). Tight clothes, super short skirts and short shorts can all fall into the category of options that look stunning as you head out the door but end up appearing bolder and more dramatic than you intended in photographs.

For a variety of picture day outfit ideas in lots of different color palettes, check out the Polyvore website and Maine photographer Michele Stapleton’s Pinterest board. Please don’t hesitate to ask us if you’re wondering whether an outfit you’re considering would work well, or if you’re trying to decide between possibilities. Also, don’t forget to reserve your time slot for the upcoming Portraits and Popsicles event in our backyard studio! Happy shopping!